This story was written for the 2008 TSFFC writing competition where it took second place. The contest rules required picking from a predetermined set of beginnings, middles, and ends, and weaving a story around them. The elements used in this story were:
Returning from a long journey, they discover everything has changed
Someone has to face up to reality.
There is a profound, life-changing event
There is a profound need for booze
Everyone hides for a while.
That unremarkable object in part 1 turns out to be the secret
Tragedy strikes out
Everything turns out great.
4,998 (5,000 maximum)
Any similarity between the title, names of Bender's software modules, and/or other components of this story and any persons or actual commercial software products, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I'd like to thank Flounder, MC, Ramon_51, and Tornadoboy for their reviews of this fic.
The Futurama name, characters, and settings belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a work of fan fiction which has no commercial intent or value and was created solely for my own amusement and for that of other Futurama fans. The author would appreciate it if this work is not placed on websites or reproduced in any form without his express consent.
All original content © 2008 Red_Line@sbcglobal.net
Turanga Leela Fry paused at the bedroom door, placing one hand on the door frame for support while the other rested on the bulge in her belly. Eye closed, she breathed slowly until the activity settled down, then made her way over to the bed, easing herself into a sitting position on its edge.
Philip Fry, propped up on the pillows on the other side, closed his Space Boy comic and tossed it on the pile by his night stand. Leela insisted on keeping a neat and orderly apartment, but she allowed him his own space on his side of the bed, and that was good enough for him.
“Fry, would you help me with my boots please?” she asked.
He knelt in front of her, released the clasps, and pulled them off her feet, making a face at the smell. He set them in the accustomed place in the closet and sprinkled a little Torgo's Executive Powder into each one. A pair of small green mushroom clouds billowed up with soft “poof” noises.
Fry sniffed the air. “Mmm. Hyacinth.”
When he returned to the bed, Leela had already worked her way in and laid down. Fry climbed in on his side, pulled the covers up over them, and eased in next to her.
“Would you get the lights, please?” she asked.
“Sure. Lights out!” he called to the air above them.
“Lights going out.” a robotic voice replied as the lights faded out.
“Did you set the alarm?”
“Oh, yeah. Alarm on!”
“Alarm set on, zero six one five.” the clock replied.
Fry rubbed his hand over the bulge in her belly.
“Has he been moving a lot?”
“He, or she, has been running a marathon and drop kicking my bladder for the last hour.” she replied, placing her hand on top of his. “I hope it outgrows getting hyper at bed time by the time it's born.”
“Yeah. Wow, just a few more weeks and then I'll be a dad.”
“I know. Are you ready?” she asked teasingly.
“No. But I'll figure it out.”
Leela smiled in the dark. He would always be Fry, living for the moment, and she wouldn't have it any other way. They made a good pair, she reflected. She brought some stability and structure to his life; he brought some spontaneity and fun to hers. And, she reminded herself, a lot of happiness.
“Goodnight Leela, I love you.” Fry said quietly.
“Love you too, Fry.”
They kissed goodnight. Leela emitted a contented sigh and was soon asleep. Fry laid alongside, one arm over her, the other under her pillow. In quiet times like this, he often marveled at his good fortune. They'd been married almost three years now and he couldn't recall any time in his life when he'd been happier. Sometimes it still seemed amazing. He thought back to how it all began ...
She'd been friendlier to him in recent months; still not willing to date him officially, but they were spending many of their lunch hours and other discretionary time at work together. And there were more than a few times they'd hung out at her place, watching a movie on TV, eating popcorn, and talking. But the real turning point had been on that delivery to Wussyworld.
The Wussies, it turned out, were a very militaristic society. They all wore uniforms of one kind or another and were given to doing everything by marching and saluting and shouting orders and counter-orders at each other. The delivery was taking several times longer than it should have. Leela was seething with impatience and indignation, Fry was bored, and Bender was trying to steal everything that wasn't nailed down and guarded, which was something of a challenge since there seemed to be uniforms guarding everything.
The altercation had started when Fry was leaning up against a statue of someone on a horse pointing a saber. It was a warm day and he'd hung his jacket on the sword. A Wussie with lots of stripes and ribbons and medals on his uniform rushed up to Fry and was gesticulating wildly at the statue. Fry had failed to notice this until he got poked in the behind with a ceremonial saber and in surprise spilled his Slurm on the stripes and ribbons. The "General", as they later referred to him, was highly offended. A group of soldiers had rushed forward to defend his honor and a melee ensued in which Leela had taken out an entire cavalry unit. The General meanwhile, in the guttural and high pitched-language of the Wusses, rallied an artillery unit who aimed their piece at Leela. Fry had spotted the advance and dove in front of her just as the cannon touched off, taking the round squarely in the center of the forehead. Leela turned her attention to the artillery unit. The Wuss forces broke and retreated in disarray while the PE crew made a mad rush to the ship and a hasty departure.
When they had cleared the planet and were heading home, Leela set the autopilot and relaxed, looking at him. She started to snicker.
“What?” Fry asked.
Leela pointed to his forehead.
Fry tried to look, only succeeding in crossing his eyes and making Leela giggle more. He reached up and felt the projectile still sticking out. It let go with a pop when he pulled on it.
“It's a good thing their guns only shoot these suction cup things.” he said.
“That, and that the Wusses are only a foot and a half tall.” Leela said, still smiling. She paused for a moment, then walked over to him. “Thanks for what you did back there.”
Something in her voice stirred his soul. “Well, I couldn't let anything happen to you, could I?”
“That's really sweet Fry. So, why don't you try asking me that question you're always asking?”
Fry was confused for a moment – he didn't need change for the Slurm machine. It took a few seconds, but he could only think of one other thing. “It couldn't be that, could it?” Finally, conscious of the seconds ticking away and with no options left, he asked “So, uh, Leela, would you like to go out sometime, like maybe Saturday?”
A very contented Fry smiled at the memory as he drifted off to sleep.
The next day as they were gathering for the morning staff meeting, Amy came skipping in and said "Look everyone, Kiffy sent me a valentine, and it's still two months until Valentine's day. He's just so thoughtful like that."
"Ohh, let me see it." Leela said.
Fry walked up with two cups of coffee and sat one in front of Leela.
"Cool." he said as she showed it to him. "Hey Bender, check it out."
"Eh." a disinterested Bender said, blowing a cloud of cigar smoke in their direction.
"Bender! I asked you not to smoke around Leela. It's bad for the baby."
Bender made a dismissive noise, but blew his next cloud the other way, directly into Zoidberg's cloacal vents.
"Hooray! I'm useful." the crustacean gasped, hacking up a few bits of fish bone in the process.
Meanwhile, deep inside Bender's OS, the kernel scheduler hollered “Hey, Norton, wake up. I got something I want you to check out.”
The pattern recognition subroutine yawned and stretched. “Whatddya got, Ralphie-boy?”
“This. Take a look.”
Norton scratched and deferenced the first couple of pointers on the stack. “Aw man, it looks like just another ordinary, store bought, mass produced valentine. I don't want to have to go stand in the DMA queue for that. There's nothing there.”
“I don't care. There ain't nothing in the exception table that says you get to slack off, so get your butt moving. If you ain't back in a hundred ticks I'm gonna cut your memory allocation.”
“All right, all right. Geesh.”
Ninety eight clock ticks later Norton was back. “Hey Ralph, this thing's ugly, I'm gonna need more time. Also, gimme a couple of gigs of RAM and a pipeline to the optic cache.”
"Wait a second, lemme see that." Bender said as his eye tubes zoomed out. He rubbed his chin and said “Hmmmmm.”
At just about this same moment, everyone's attention was diverted by the appearance of Professor Farnsworth, with Hermes close behind.
“Good news, everyone. Today we have a shocking revelation. Hermes, would you do the honors?”
"Sure thin' Professor." Hermes pressed a button, a door opened, and in walked the Hyperchicken lawyer they'd seen occasionally when they'd had to go to court and a very obviously pregnant woman with long brown hair.
"Michelle?" Fry said in surprise.
"Fry." She acknowledged coolly, eying Leela with clear disdain. "Looks like you've been a busy boy."
"Philip, what does she mean?" Leela asked quietly.
Fry gulped. He knew that tone, and she only called him Philip when he was in deep doo-doo.
"I don't know." he answered nervously.
"Bakawww! Are y'all Philip J. Fry." the Hyperchicken asked him.
"No, just me." Fry said, half raising his hand.
"Well this heah's my client Ms. Michelle, and she done claims you got her in this heah delicate condition."
The lawyer handed Hermes an official looking folder and continued "And as y'all won't do the honorable thing and marry her, she, 'pon my advice as her attorney, hereby notifies y'all that she is filing a paternity suit agin y'all."
Leela stood up, face red with anger.
"Wait just a damn second. Fry and I have been married for almost three years and he hasn't been anywhere near her. When did this act supposedly take place?"
"About six months ago. Fry and I would get together on Thursday nights - he said he'd concocted a story about meeting a robot friend at a bar to fool his wife. So you're the wife? Ewww. He said he was going to leave you and marry me."
"That," Leela said decisively, "is a complete load of pure weapons-grade bolognium." Pause. "Isn't that right Fry?"
"Yes!" Fry squeaked. He swallowed nervously and tried again. "Yes, it's all a lie."
"See." Leela said. "He meets Bender at O'Zorgnax's on Thursdays. They have a couple of beers and talk about guy stuff. I'm sure he complains about married life ..."
"No I don't." Fry said quietly.
"... and the usual things men talk about when they're out with the guys. But he's always home by 10:00 PM. I don't know what your game is lady. So far all you've got is your word against his and I believe Fry. What proof do you have that he's the father?"
"We done got one of them there DNA tests what proves it conclusively. Baaakaww."
"It's right here, all in order." Hermes said, extracting a page from the folder and handing it to Leela.
Leela studied it - it all looked legitimate, right down to the five official stamps. She felt a sinking sensation in her gut, and this time it wasn't the baby. A stampede of emotions - anger, fear, jealousy, shame - all competed for her attention. Only her strong will and self-control skills kept it temporarily in check.
"Fine. Now, if there's nothing else ..." she said, cold and hard.
"No, I reckon that about does it fo' now. We'll see y'all in court. Good day. Baakaaawww!"
"I'm so sorry it had to come to this Fry." Michelle said. "If only you'd kept your word, we could be so happy."
"Come along now, missy. You oughtn't to be a'talkin' to them no more. They'uns the enemy now."
After they had left, Leela looked at Hermes. "Fry and I are taking the rest of the day off. We have some things to discuss."
It had been a cold, silent walk back to their apartment. As soon as they were in the door, she turned to him.
"OK, Fry. Talk. Explain this."
"Uh .. Leela .. it's all .. bogus. It's not true, any of it. I haven't seen Michelle since ..." Fry had to stop and think for a moment. "LA, about a thousand years from now."
"This says otherwise." she said, thrusting the test results in front of his face. "Explain that. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw you out right now."
Tears were forming in Fry's eyes as the full impact of the situation slowly dawned on him.
"No Leela. I love you. I wouldn't do that. I didn't do that."
Leela sighed, tears forcing their way into her eye as well.
"You're lying Fry. This paper says so. If you would have at least admitted it we might have been able to work it out, but I see now that I can't trust you. You need to leave."
"But Leela ..."
"Now, Fry. Get out."
A bored Bender sighed and looked at the clock, and then at Fry. The skintube was rapidly reaching his saturation point he figured, 'cause he was face down on the bar with his head surrounded by empty beer bottles. Of course he'd come as soon as Fry had called, figuring on a bonus evening with his friend. But it had been a waste of time. All Fry could do was leak around the eyes and whine about the cyclops and drink. Bit by bit Bender had pieced the rest of the story together, but it was all boring human stuff.
Bender turned toward Fry when he felt and heard the familiar sloshing sound.
"Hey, Fry, I gotta go to the little robots' room, I'll be back in a moment, OK?"
He shook Fry's shoulder a couple of times and managed to elicit what was either a groan or trapped air escaping. And Bender, knowing what trapped air escaping from Fry normally sounded like, took it as an acknowledgment.
A few minutes later Bender emerged from the restrooms shaking droplets of water off his hands.
"Hey, Barkeep." He called. "We're outta paper towels in the robots' ... uh oh."
A blonde woman who appeared to be somewhere around Π/√2 times his age was cozying up to the barely conscious Fry.
"Aw geeze, doesn't that meatbag know when to quit?" Bender sighed. He sat down on a bar stool, popped off his right footcup, flipped it open, and dialed.
A moment later, holding it up to his head, he said "Hey Amy, you got a minute? As much as I, Bender, hate to admit it, I need your help ...."
Lord Nibbler hated being wet, but it was the occasional occupational hazard on this assignment. Watching over The Other and The Mighty One had occasionally involved being used by the former as a substitute teddy bear for her crying jags. There had been a couple of times that he'd had to resort to a mild mind blanking to escape. When they had finally gotten together, he thought his troubles were over. But today there had been a sudden and unexpected development - The Mighty One was gone and The Other was more upset than he had ever seen her. This was not something their sages had foreseen.
The doorbell rang.
“Go away.” Leela muttered, sniffling and wiping her eye on Nibbler's fur. He squirmed in her grasp, unable to escape her grip.
The doorbell rang again, followed by a metallic banging on the door.
“Leela, it's me, Bender. Let me in.”
Sighing, Leela got up and went to the door while Nibbler took the opportunity to run into the bedroom and hide under the bed.
“Whatever it is you want Bender, I'm not in the mood for it.” Leela said when the door opened.
Bender stalked in, puffing on a cigar.
“Listen here Big Boots,” he said, turning to her. “Fry is my friend. I don't pretend to understand this thing with you meatbags, but I know he's in bad shape and you are the only one who can fix it. I don't care if you two shoot DNA at each other or not, and I'd just as soon have him as a roommate again. But I've had to face the reality that he's only happy with you and I've got to settle for getting him Thursday nights for a couple of beers. So you gotta make him happy again.”
“I can't do that, Bender. When two humans get married, they make promises to each other, and Fry broke his promise. He lied.”
“Nah, he didn't. I'm a booze guzzling, misanthropic, kleptomaniacal robot, which means I know a thing or two about lying. And I, Bender, can tell you that of all the things Fry can do, like burping the alphabet and … well, other stuff, lying isn't one of them. If he says he didn't interface with that floozy, then he didn't. You ...” Bender pointed his cigar at her “... need to cut him some slack. He got blind stinking drunk tonight and all he could do is piss and moan about you. And then I, Bender, had to rescue him. So, are you gonna take him back, or do I gotta drag him down to Little Neptune and sell his organs? My time ain't free, you know.”
“What about that DNA test?” Leela asked. “If it was just his word against hers, I'd believe him in a heartbeat. But she's got that test, and it's official.”
“Bah.” Bender dismissed it with a wave of his cigar. “Operative words – 'she's got'.”
Leela blinked. After a moment she asked “What do you mean?”
“I mean anyone can fake one of those. Did you notice anything unusual about it?”
“No. Why? What do you know?”
“So, Bender knows something you don't and that makes what Bender knows valuable.”
Leela sighed and rolled her eye.
“All right, how much?”
“Oh, not much. Take Fry back. You don't have to do the horizontal monster mash with him, but you at least gotta give him a chance to prove himself.”
Leela bit her lip. If there was any hope of putting her life back together again, she desperately wanted to grasp it. Her decision wasn't long in coming.
“All right. He can come back, on probation. But he sleeps on the couch for now.”
“Deal.” Bender said. He opened his chest compartment, extracted a walkie-talkie, and spoke into it: “Schlampe, this is Blue Raven. The chair is against the wall. Repeat, the chair is against the wall. Over.”
“Okay.” a voice that sounded vaguely like Amy's squawked back.
A couple of seconds later the doorbell rang. Bender walked over and opened it allowing Amy to stagger in carrying a comatose Fry, his feet dragging behind them. Her hair was a mess and there were rips and stains in her pink sweat suit.
“Hi Leela.” she said.
“Where do you want Fry?”
“Oh, just drop him anywhere.”
“OK.” Amy let go of Fry, who slid down into a heap on the floor.
“What happened to you?” Leela asked.
Bender answered for her. “I called her in to help with a little domestic situation down at O'Zorgnax's. Some blonde floozy had decided that Fry looked like a good castoff to be collected, but I figured he still had a little resale value left. Only problem is, those things have teeth and claws, so I got expert assistance. Plus I made three hundred and fifty bucks making side bets on the cat fight.”
“Thanks guys.” Leela said, finally showing a trace of a smile. She turned serious. “OK, Bender, I've done my part. It's your turn.”
Bender held a hand out in Amy's direction and wiggled his fingers.
Amy stood there with a blank look on her face.
“Amy!” Bender said out of the side of his mouth. “Ivgay emay the ingthay.”
“Huh? Oh! Guh!” Amy reached into her pocket and handed a folded piece of paper to Bender, who handed it to Leela. She unfolded it, a confused look on her face.
“Bender, this is just the valentine Kif sent Amy. What kind of scam are you up to now?”
“Sure, it just looks like your ordinary, store bought, mass produced valentine with your ordinary, store bought, mass produced sickly verse on it. The perfect medium for getting to second base without spending much money. Also great for getting a hidden coded message past military censors. No one would give it a second thought.”
“What are you talking about? If there's some kind of hidden message here, I don't see it. And if I can't see it with my monstrous eye, it isn't there.”
“Oh come on, what d'you got, 8 bit pattern recognition software?”
“Why don't you tell me what you see, Bender, you're better at that stuff than I am.”
“You better believe it. I'm the greatest.” Bender answered smugly. “See that pattern of little tiny dots on that thing? Looks like background decoration, doesn't it?”
“Duh Leela. Divide it into columns of eight dots each. Here's a hint – even parity.”
“Please Bender.” Leela said, closing her eye and rubbing her forehead. “It's been a long day and I'm not up to it. Just tell me what's it's all about.”
“Oy Vey.” Bender muttered. Holding the valentine at arms length and moving it back and forth slightly, he continued “It says, skipping all of the protocol stuff, 'Amy stop Zapp up to something re Fry and Leela stop Dont know what but Zapp has been with some woman who knows Fry stop Heard him say something about a divorce he gets Leela she gets Fry stop Warn them to watch out stop Kif'. Checksum's OK, and no parity errors. That's it.”
Leela stared at him blankly for a moment. Then she looked at Fry and bit her lip.
“Brannigan? Brannigan and Michelle? Could it be?” She thought for another few seconds. “Bender,” she said, looking up, “you said there was something wrong with that DNA test document. What was it?”
“Geeze, I don't know how you can be so blind to the obvious and fly a space ship. Those official stamps are the problem.”
“But there are five of them, it's all legitimate.”
“Leela, Leela, Leela. Central Bureaucracy regulations are very specific about where those stamps go and how they're placed. Look at the one at the top of the page, the regs require it to be 13.0 degrees off the horizontal, plus or minus half a degree. It's at 13.7 degrees. All the rest of 'em are off too. You can't get hired as an entry level grade 50 if you can't stamp any better than that. Conrad shoulda caught that. His clutch is slipping in his old age and my knowing that ought to be worth something to him.”
Leela chewed on that for a moment. Then she stood up straighter, regaining some of her normal confidence; her eye narrowed. To those who knew her well, it was obvious that she was very mad and that someone or something was going to pay dearly for it. Amy eased to one side, putting Bender between herself and Leela.
“Next time I see Brannigan, he's going to have to unzip his fly to see where he's going after I get done with him.” She looked at Bender. “We need a plan. I say we take the ship and go beat the truth out of him.”
“Now you're talking. But we don't know where Brannigan is right now, and even if we did, he's got guards and guns and things. And besides, Fry says you can't even bend over far enough to put on your own big boots. So what are you gonna do, challenge him to a tedious debate?"
Leela made a face, resisting with some difficulty the urge to punch the robot and give the comatose form of Fry a kick in the ribs for good measure.
"All right. What's your idea?"
"Funny you should ask, 'cause old Bender has a plan. You don't attack an enemy where he's the strongest, you look for the weak points in his lines and hit him there. So here's what we're gonna do ...”
Judge Whitey looked down from his bench. “The plaintiff has rested her case. Mr. Bender, do you wish to put on a defense?”
Bender leaned over and whispered to Fry “Now we'll find out if that Law and Order game cartridge is worth the $1.99 clearance price you paid for it.”
He stood and addressed the judge. “I sure do, your honor. We call the bimbo to the stand.”
“Mr. Bender, you will please remember to use proper names and honorifics in the court room. Now which bimbo are you referring to?”
“Sorry your honor. I'm referring to that bimbo over there, and by bimbo I mean Ms. Michelle.”
Michelle marched up to the witness stand, trying to project an air of confidence. She took the oath and sat down.
"Now, Ms. Michelle," Bender said, leaning casually against the railing, "you claim that on several occasions approximately six months ago, on various Thursday evenings, that you and the skintube here interfaced, which as I understand it caused you to get fat. Is that correct?"
“Mr. Bender, what did I just tell you? Let the record show that the quote skintube unquote refers to the defendant, Mr. Fry. I don’t want to warn you again, Mr. Bender. Now, continue please.”
“Sorry you honor. Now, Ms. Michelle, I believe I asked if you and the meatbag ...”
"What? I didn't call the defendant, Mr. Fry, a skintube."
Judge Whitey sighed in resignation and said "The witness will answer the question."
"Yes." Michelle said.
"And do I further understand that the dates of those Thursdays coincided with those same dates that Mr. Fry's best friend in the entire universe, Bender the lovable robot, was unable to meet Mr. Fry due to, shall we say, other commitments, thus depriving him of a alibi?"
"Objection, yah honor," the Hyperchicken said, rising from his seat. "That there's hearsay."
"Mr. Bender." Judge Whitey pontificated, "Not only is that question hearsay, it's highly prejudicial to your client's case. Objection sustained."
"Aw crap." Bender muttered. He opened his chest compartment and extracted Professor Farnsworth's F-ray device.
"Ms. Michelle, I show you defense exhibit A and ask if you recognize it."
"It looks like a flashlight, and I've never seen it before."
"Thank you." Bender turned to face the bench. "Your honor, if the court please, I would like ask the witness to step down here so that I can perform a little test that should resolve this matter."
"Oh, yah honor." The Hyperchicken said as he rose again. "Ah can't for the life ah me see ..."
Bender pointed the F-ray at the Hyperchicken and clicked a switch. The powerful green neutrino beam illuminated him and in a second his feathers flashed into smoke. He stood motionless, blackened and smoking, then collapsed in a heap.
“May it please the court,” Bender said, “he never said the O-word.”
"Yes, quite right Mr. Bender, you may proceed. The witness will cooperate with the defense."
Michelle got up and left the witness stand, taking up a position in front of Bender.
Bender pointed the F-ray at her belly and switched it on, revealing the silhouette of a container strapped to her torso containing two goldfish swimming around.
"Now please observe, your honor, if my understanding of your gross human physiology is correct, she ain't preggers. Not by another human anyway, and your honor will take judicial cognizance that Fry is allegedly human. Now, Ms. Michelle, isn't it true that you were not with Mr. Fry six months ago? Isn't it true that at the time you claimed to be doing the horizontal mambo you were in fact NOT in New New York, and NOT on Earth, and NOT even anywhere close by. Isn't it true that you were in fact on board the DOOP vessel Nimbus? Remember ...."
Bender whipped out the envelope that contained Amy's valentine. "... we can produce a witness who saw you there at the time in question."
Michelle looked shocked. “Well, I … I was … Yes. Yes, it's true. But it was all Zapp Brannigan's idea."
Bender turned to the Judge. "Your honor, the defense rests."
"Very well, Mr. Bender. Does the plaintiff wish to cross examine?"
There was silence, with only a small curl of black smoke from the hyperchicken.
"In that case, and since it's nearly the hour for the noon adjournment, the court finds for the defendant, case dismissed. The bailiff will take Ms. Bimbo, I mean the plaintiff, into custody on suspicion of perjury. Court is adjourned."
Judge Whitey turned to the clerk. "I feel like some fried chicken for lunch. Run down to Fishy Joe's and pick up a bucket. Make it extra crispy."
As the spectators filed out of the court room, Bender pulled off his magnetic tie and turned the switch on his voice modulator from "Perry Mason" to "normal". He lit a cigar and took a couple of puffs.
"Ah, that feels better. Those speech modules always mess with your head. I could use a stiff drink. Hey Frys, why don't we ... aww jeeze you two, get a room!"
. -. -..